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Human Smuggling/Trafficking

Charlotte woman indicted for forced labor and document servitude

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Lucinda Lyons Shackleford, 53, of Charlotte, was indicted Wednesday by a federal grand jury in the Western District of North Carolina on charges of forced labor and document servitude, which is the withholding of an individual's legal documents, following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

According to the indictment, the victim, an underage undocumented alien, was placed in Shackleford's care through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' (HHS) Family Reunification Program, pending the decision of an immigration judge on his immigration status.

Under the terms of the agreement with HHS, Shackleford promised to care for the victim, and to provide, among other things, proper living accommodations, food and clothing. According to the agreement, the victim could not work and could have scheduled weekend visits with his father.

The indictment alleges that since June 2009, Shackleford forced the victim to engage in various types of labor, including cleaning yards in her trailer park and cleaning her mobile home, without being paid for his services. The indictment also alleges that Shackleford did not provide adequate food to the victim or allow him to visit his father.

"No one should be forced to live in a world of isolation and servitude, as this victim was, particularly in a country that prides itself on freedom," said Brock Nicholson, acting special agent in charge of ICE HSI overseeing Georgia and the Carolinas. "It's a sad reflection on the human condition that people believe they can engage in this kind of exploitation of another human being for profit and to think they can do so with impunity. Today's indictment sends the message to those who traffic in human beings that ICE Homeland Security Investigations and its federal, state and local law enforcement partners are committed to protecting those who cannot protect themselves."

Shackleford allegedly threatened to report the victim to law enforcement authorities and immigration officials if he did not work for her or give her all the money he earned. Additionally, the indictment alleges that Shackleford withheld the victim's birth certificate.

Shackleford is charged with one count of forced labor, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years imprisonment and a fine of up to $250,000, and one count of document servitude, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

"This case today brings to light a very important violation of a basic human right: the right to freedom. Combating human trafficking is a high priority for the Justice Department. Forced labor, the exploitation of vulnerable individuals, and the inhumane and degrading treatment of all people has no place in modern society and it will not be allowed in our District," said U.S. Attorney Anne M. Tompkins.

The case against Shackleford is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Kenneth M. Smith.

On Dec. 22, 2010, the President proclaimed January 2011 as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month and called upon the people of the United States to end modern slavery and to observe this month with appropriate programs and activities.

ICE investigates criminal organizations and individuals engaged in human trafficking.

ICE uses its full authority to strip away the assets and profit incentives from those who engage in human trafficking. ICE makes it a top priority to identify and rescue human trafficking victims and, in coordination with its federal partners and non-governmental organizations, ensure a safe and secure environment for human trafficking victims. ICE provides training to both foreign and domestic law enforcement agencies and participates in human trafficking task forces across the country. ICE also conducts public awareness campaigns in an effort to educate the public about the dangers of human trafficking and to encourage people to report suspected instances of human trafficking. Anyone with information pertaining to human trafficking should call ICE's tip line anonymously by dialing 1-866-DHS-2ICE.